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2002 Outback Wagon
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56 Posts
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Hi folks. I took a job with a quick lube company, which for now, I won't name. I am having a dilemma about the Brake Fluid Exchange procedure that we do. I was asked today, at my job, to do the procedure. The new brake fluid that we used has been stored in a pressurized pump that we use to attach to the master cylinder to force old brake fluid out of each bleeder valve. I tested the "new" DOT3 brake fluid in the pump before doing the procedure and found that it 2% moisture. I wanted to replace the brake fluid with new brake fluid from a new, unopened bottle. I was told by a senior lube tech and my manager to do the procedure with the brake fluid containing 2% moisture--that it would be a waste of product to replace it with a new bottle. I refuse to do the service because it is my understanding that at only 3% moisture the boiling point of brake fluid is decreased 100 degs and is dangerously close to the minimum requirements. In my opinion (as a non-mchanic) the brake fluid should be at 0% moisture. Am I being just hard to get along with? Am I being overly stringent about it? I would like to educate myself more about the subject. Your comments and direction would be appreciated.
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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12,391 Posts
1. Easy: Test the vehicles you're changing the fluid for. If you're not making it worse then that degrades the concern. Keep track of this.

2. You shouldn't walk into a company and try to change company protocol or refuse doing your job. That's a pretty quick way to not get promoted, not stand out, etc. But I understand you're feeling responsible - that's a good thing. There are healthy ways to walk through this and not healthy ways. How you communicate and act about this is critical to your career. This is where exceptional people stand out.

The better you walk through situations like this the quicker you learn, grow, get promoted and succeed. Personally I like things like this - it's an opportunity to stand out, look different, and succeed. Which is pretty easy today because most people just choose the easy way out - complain, talk about how right they are, how wrong the company is and relegate themselves to average very quickly. You see it on boards like this all the time - black and white attitudes and boxes people use to define and think and act detached from any data driven realities. That's most people. How about you decide today not to be most people?

3. Keep a record of the new fluid and old fluid moisture content comparisons. Over time see what your averages are. You might learn something. And keep an eye out for how you could easily solve this problem - simple solutions that are value adds to the company - not expensive, not complex, not massive overhauls, and maybe a simple way to communicate to customers as a marketing value to the company. You probably don't personally realize the cost and complexity of changing this - so you dont' care - but someone does. So you'll be stepping on toes, whether you're right or not, there are people that will feel like you do right now by asking about this.

Find an opportunity when things look slow and the manager is alone and try to sum it up in one or two questions showing *the data*. First time you ask - just show the data and say "do you think we could......" and then offer up a simple solution. And plan for the conversation to end *right there*, don't worry about having a discussion. People in this position generally need time to process, they rarely celebrate in 5 seconds a question about changing something they've done for decades. Then wait a couple weeks and ask again. This prevents you from getting too worked up about no changes, not listening, you'll learn, and gives them time to process. Then ask again in a couple weeks. Eventually you might need to ask specifically that you don't feel comfortable doing that and show the data - if that's truly how you feel. Communicate it well, not as an attack, not as a degradation, not complaining.

And...you'll have some data showing your doing your due diligence personally and have tried to make appropriate changes.

4. And make sure you're asking the right person. "Manager" is very loose terminology. Is the "manager" even the person to ask? In some organizations they're mostly managing employee staffing, scheduling, calendars, time off - and not really the go-to person for organizational change. They wouldn't want to stir the pot or get into something they're not even asked or qualified to do, so you're asking them to step way out of line for something they're not even that educated or invested in. That causes issues all the time.

5. If you feel this is unsafe and problematic then you work on moving to your next job. And you could even add your data driven project to your resume.

Honestly - I've seen so many 100,000 and even 200,000 mile vehicles on the original brake fluid I think the company is probably doing far better than average. I'm not recommending that and it's a bad idea to go that long - but as an illustration going to your company is probably beating the averages most of the time.
 

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2012 OB , 2017 Impreza
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3,277 Posts
Personally, I feel your integrity is intact!!

There is a REASON why brake-fluid should be used from a NEWLY opened bottle.

I understand they do not wish to get rid of 'new' fluid which has absorbed water. I wonder if heating the fluid would drive out the moisture and make it suitable for use?

Brake-systems rust from the bottom up. Water droplets form in the LOWEST portion of the system (calipers) and cause rust which leads to seal failure.

I know a guy who went to "Wyo Tech" right out of high-school. He learned how to be an auto mechanic. He got his first job but quickly became disenchanted with it. He was often instructed to "Replace that alternator" when a loose-wire was the real problem....etc. In the end, his integrity led him to move to a different line of work.
 

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2008 Outback H6 LL Bean , 94 Ford Aerostar
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119 Posts
Personally, I feel your integrity is intact!!

There is a REASON why brake-fluid should be used from a NEWLY opened bottle.

I understand they do not wish to get rid of 'new' fluid which has absorbed water. I wonder if heating the fluid would drive out the moisture and make it suitable for use?

Brake-systems rust from the bottom up. Water droplets form in the LOWEST portion of the system (calipers) and cause rust which leads to seal failure.

I know a guy who went to "Wyo Tech" right out of high-school. He learned how to be an auto mechanic. He got his first job but quickly became disenchanted with it. He was often instructed to "Replace that alternator" when a loose-wire was the real problem....etc. In the end, his integrity led him to move to a different line of work.
Another great argument for DOT 5 brake fluid. :)
 

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2012 OB , 2017 Impreza
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3,277 Posts
Another great argument for DOT 5 brake fluid. :)

Actually, DOT5 fluid is only really suitable for high-performance situations where you EXPECT to change the fluid very frequently. DOT5 has no capacity to absorb water so ANY AND ALL of the water remains free-floating within the hydraulic system. This is VERY BAD for a daily-driver vehicle.

DOT3 and DOT4 fluids will ABSORB water over several years of use thus protect your hydraulic system over that time. Only AFTER the capacity to absorb water is fulfilled does the free-floating water becomes a problem.

In other words, DOT3 and DOT4 fluids absorb water BY DESIGN to help protect your hydraulic system.

When using DOT3 or DOT4 brake fluid, as long as you change the fluid every 3-5 years, your hydraulic system will be protected from free-floating water.
 

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2007 2.5 L Obsidian Black Outback XTL
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603 Posts
I would stay away from "DOT 5" brake fluid.. it is an entirely different animal and is a silicone based fluid that is not compatible with DOT 3, DOT 4 or DOT 5.1; Those fluids are glycol based. You would need to completely purge a glycol system and possibly replace the gaskets and O rings to get rid of the old, glycol based brake fluid.

Here are some stats on why DOT brake fluids are different;

Grade Dry boiling point Wet boiling point
DOT3 205 C 140 C
DOT4 230 C 155 C
DOT5.1 270 C 190 C
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DOT5 260 C 180 C

Once you could make the argument that going from DOT3 to DOT4 and then to completely purge the system and to go to DOT5 would give you an increase of 25-30 C. With the recent creation of DOT5.1 it makes no sense to go to to the silicone based fluid based upon temperature ratings alone. Glycol based DOT5.1 has a higher temperature rating than silicone based DOT5.

If you go to DOT5 then it is forever incompatible with any other DOT grade. You will be using DOT5 or some other (not yet invented) silicone brake fluid.

Right now if you have DOT3 or DOT4 it makes sense to go to DOT5.1. It is a significant jump in dry and wet boiling points that can offset some of the problems with getting a mushy feeling brake pedal with old, wet brake fluid under high temperature conditions.

Still, you should flush your brake system every few years with fluid from a new bottle that has not been opened before.
 
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